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Category: Dining

The Bangala, Chettinad: Heritage Haven in Historic Tamil Nadu!

Featured several times in the New York Times, the hotel occupying a house that turns 100 this year has redefined ABC. In Chettinad “A” stands for Achchi or the grand-dame Mrs. Meenakshi Meiyappan who owns The Bangala, which “B” designates, whilst “C” can only signify the celebrated Chettinadu cuisine The Bangala upholds with unmitigated zeal. Achchi (meaning grandma) which Mrs. Meiyappan is unexceptionally called, runs the hotel as an extension of her home, which means you sometimes concede the professionalism of a hotel to the charming idiosyncrasies of local staff (who seem to have been around as long as...

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Mario Batali Prepares an Elegant State Dinner

Recently Mario Batali cooked the final state dinner for President Barak Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy, and his wife, Agnese Landini. Michelle Obama is a huge fan of the celebrity chef who cooks within an Italian tradition and then makes it his own. She requested that Mario  prepare a special meal to wrap up the Obama era at the White House. At a Pasadena book signing of his new book Mario Batali: BIG American Cookbook, the chef shared his recent White House experience with Food Editor and Columnist Russ Parsons. While sitting in the...

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Via Veneto Santa Monica Dishing Star-Caliber Italian Cuisine

Los Angeles is a city known as much for its distinctive award-winning eateries as it is for its celebrity residents. In fact, many of the city’s restaurants—particularly those frequented by Hollywood’s elite—often become as revered as the star clientele, themselves. One such establishment is Via Veneto in Santa Monica, which enjoys its fair share of celebrity patronage. From David and Victoria Beckham’s joint birthday party to distinguished diners the likes of Madonna, Sean Penn, Eva Longoria, Harrison Ford and Duran Duran’s Warren Cuccurullo, who is actually one of the restaurant’s investors, this locale has received more than its fair...

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Sotheby’s Ornellaia Wine Auction

Parking in the Hammer Museum UCLA in Los Angeles, I noticed an array of expensive luxury cars that included a Rolls Royce, two Bentleys and a few Jaguars lined up in a row. They belonged to affluent winemakers, oenophiles, wine buyers and culinary aficionados for a gala evening and dinner by James Beard award winning chef Suzann Goin. Michael Mondavi Founder, Folio Fine Wine Partners and Michael Mondavi Family Estate attended the event. He helped establish the Napa Valley wine industry to what it is today, while working with his grandfather Casare Mondavi and learning about natural farming and winemaking. Goin and her team prepared over 150 exquisite meals for the benefit dinner during the live auction of rare Ornellaia bottles conducted by Sotherby’s in support of the Hammer Museum. Tenuta dell’Ornellaia is an Italian wine producer in the DOC Bolgheri in Toscana, known as a producer of “Super Tuscan” wine. Every year since the release of Ornellaia 2006, the winery chooses a contemporary artist to create a work of art and series of limited edition labels. The inspiration is from a single word chosen by the winemaker to describe the character of the vintage. This year, the winemaker selected contemporary artist Yutaka Sone. Sone works in various media, primarily marble sculpture and crystal carving. His large blocks of marble are displayed around the world. The winemaker’s word this...

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Discovering KOA: Iron Chef Food in a Manhattan setting

One of the many things I love about New York City is the sense of discovery I feel whenever I “find” a street I haven’t traveled, a pocket park or a new hotel. While those places may have been seen and enjoyed by countless others before me, I always have a “Eureka” moment when I discover a really special restaurant. And that was how I felt when I had dinner with my daughter at KOA in the Flatiron district. I had been invited by the restaurant’s public relations representative to review KOA’s modern Chinese/Japanese fusion dishes and their healthier...

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Sam Zien, Sam the Cooking Guy

You’ll not find Sam Zien, known as “Sam the Cooking Guy,” cooking in a restaurant or local pub. Instead, you are more apt to discover him when flipping through the channels on TV. This fourteen-time Emmy winner is a firm believer in “food that is big in taste and small in effort.” He’s the guy who shows you the easy way to cook and who provides tips. Unlike the majority of chefs I’ve interviewed, Sam did not know at an early age that he wanted to cook. As you read my interview with him, you may be surprised at...

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Four Seasons Gresham Palace in Budapest

The Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest sits on fabled history almost as long as its name. The renovated historic venue along the Danube River was constructed from 1904-06 over the Nákó House, a neo-classical palace built in 1827. Visitors now wander the lobby, off Széchenyi Square, and experience the grandeur of old-time Budapest. The smart ones book a room. Originally, the palace served as an office building but was also a home for wealthy British aristocrats connected with the Gresham Company. Bombing of the nearby Chain Bridge during WWII caused great damage. After the war, Soviets occupied the...

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British Food Grows Up

In the past, British food has been the butt of many jokes. But today celebrity chefs elevate cuisine throughout London and beyond. And when French chef, Joël Robuchon, who holds more Michelin stars than any other, declares that London trumps Paris for food, it’s time to investigate. Like British food, hotel food also has had a bad reputation as a place to eat–and only if you have to. That all changed when many celebrity and Michelin-starred chefs began affiliating with luxury hotels. On a recent trip I had a chance to check out some great hotel eats in both...

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Magnificent Montage Laguna Beach

Once you pull up to the Montage Laguna Beach, your mind relaxes as the friendly valets welcome you and escort you to the registration counter. The staff happily leads you to the  Lobby Lounge balcony to proudly show off their signature mosaic sunburst pool with over 500,000 colorful tiles. Beyond are rocky cliffs and the dazzling Pacific Ocean. Checking into room 526, we had marvelous views of the walkway leading down to the beach and the Pacific Ocean. The feather-top king size bed was dressed with 400-thread count bed linens. In the closet, two 100% Fila Casa Egyptian Combed Cotton...

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TBar Steak and Lounge: A Steakhouse for Romantics

Most of my favorite steakhouses look like…steakhouses. And while there’s nothing wrong with that look, there are times when one might wish to enjoy a perfectly cooked steak in an atmosphere that is…well, romantic. Softly lit at night, with dark wood furnishings and a well-dressed upscale clientele that matches the sophisticated space and the upscale East Side location, TBar Steak and Lounge is such a place. Executive Chef Ben Zwicker, previously of the Four  Seasons,  Aureole and Petrossian, has created a menu that features both classic steakhouse fare and his unique takes on other classics. For example, Angel Chicken...

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Mandarin Oriental Paris: An Oriental Ode to Paris

Who’d have imagined that what was at nascence a medieval nunnery would  attain the apogee of luxe parisien, conferred the ultimate and uniquely parisian designation “Palace Parisien.” Notwithstanding, the Mandarin Oriental, a precious stone’s throw away from Place Vendôme necklaced in haute joailliers, is so discreet you could slip past it on designer-boutique-streamed Rue St Honoré. And yet, the MO has stamped itself reverberatingly on the Parisian luxury circuit Sensationalism isn’t emblematic of brand Mandarin Oriental, but the check-in at MO Paris is nothing if not sensational. “What would you like to drink?” you’re asked. Your “welcome drink” might...

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Eat Like a Local at City Kitchen NYC

You’d be hard pressed to find many locations in New York that can impress locals just as easily as they draw in tourists. But City Kitchen at the Row NYC hotel isn’t the typical foodie hot spot. That much is apparent when you first step in and observe the warm and communal atmosphere of this bustling food hall. The space is a nod to the classic working kitchens of yore, with a mix of modern and industrial décor elements like white marble tile, Italian glass chandeliers and leather counter stools punctuated with pops of ambient neon light that, on...

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